I’m sure Charles Feeney was a great guy, and it certainly sounds like he gave the money he amassed to very good causes (and anonymously too!)
The thing to remember when reading these stories, though, is that billionaires shouldn’t exist. They make their money off the back of workers and tax loopholes. I’d challenge anyone who says otherwise to send proof.
As I’ve said many times before, if a regular person wakes up with what they think is a ‘good idea’ but is actually misguided and dangerous, then nothing much is likely to come of it. But a billionaire, by dint of their huge unearned wealth can make it happen. And recently, we’ve had an object lesson in how that can go wrong… (*cough* Musk *cough*)
Feeney was a proponent of “Giving While Living,” believing he could make more of a difference in causes he cared about while he was alive, rather than setting up a foundation after he died, according to the Atlantic Philanthropies.
“It’s much more fun to give while you are alive than to give when you are dead,” Feeney said in a biography about him, “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t.”
Feeney set up the Atlantic Philanthropies in 1982, transferring all of his business assets to it two years later, according to the foundation. In 2020, the foundation closed its doors after it said it had successfully given away all of its funds.
In total, the Atlantic Philanthropies made grants totaling $8 billion across five continents — much of it anonymously, the foundation said. Donations supported education, health care, human rights and more. Feeney’s foundation donated to infrastructure in Vietnam, universities in Ireland and medical centers devoted to finding cures for cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to the foundation’s website.
Feeney chose to live the last three decades of his life frugally, his foundation said: He did not own a car or home, preferring to live in a rented apartment in San Francisco, according to the foundation.